The Great Human Being Fr.Xavier Karunaratnam (Kilifather)

The genocidal war on Eelamtamils  has resulted in a large number of killings and disappearances. Among these victims were several Catholic priests. Fr. Mary Bastian, Fr. Wenceslaus, Fr. Chandra Fernando, Fr. Nicholaspillai Packiyaranjith and Fr. Xavier Karunaratnam had been killed by Srilankan army. Others like Fr. Herbiet, Fr. Selvarajah and Fr. Jim Brown had been made to enforced disappeared.  As mentioned earlier one of the Catholic priests killed in the genocidal war, was Fr. Xavier Karunaratnam known popularly as“Kili Father.”

Kili Father” Karunaratnam at the time of his death was attached to the “Our Lady of Good Health” (Aarokkiyamaathaa) Church at the agrarian village of Vavunikulam in the northern mainland known as the Wanni. He also ran a meditation and counselling centre in the Vavunikulam area. This centre provided counselling and psychological care to numerous Eelamtamils affected by the genocidal war.

On Sunday 20 April 2008 the 57-year-old Kilifather had gone to Mankulam to help conduct the morning mass. Thereafter he proceeded to Mallaavi to attend a special memorial meeting. The meeting was to commemorate former Tamil National Alliance (TNA) MP Kittinan Sivanesan on the 45th day after his death. The Great human being Sivanesan was also  killed by the  deep penetration unit of Srilankan army in the Mannankulam area.

While returning from Mallavi, Fr. Karunaratnam’s  vehicle developed engine trouble and broken down at Vannivilaankulam. It was then tied to another vehicle with a thick rope and towed along. Fr. Karunaratnam sat in the driving seat of the double cab with his hands on the steering vehicle to help keep the towed vehicle steady. Another Catholic layman helper was also in the vehicle proceeding along the Mallaavi-Vavunikulam road. Apparently Fr. Karunaratnam was keen on returning to Vavunikulam for lunch.

The two vehicles were at a point near the “Kulanthai Yesu” (Infant Jesus) chapel at Ambaikulam when the claymore explosion occurred at about 12:25 p.m. The attack which carried out by LRRP happened between Vavunikulam and Vannivilaankulam at Ambaikulam.

It was the towed vehicle at the rear and not the towing vehicle at front that was the target. The LRRP triggered off the claymore were very clear in their objective. Both the clergyman and layman in the white  vehicle were injured. Both were taken to Kilinochchi hospital but Fr. Karunaratnam was pronounced dead upon admission. The layman helper who sustained serious injuries received intensive care at Kilinochchi. 

The remains of Fr. Karunaratnam was taken to St. Theresa’s Church in Kilinochchi. Thousands of people both Christian and Saivaite paid their respects. Posters and black flags have also come up in some parts of Yaalppanam in respect of “Kili Father” and also in protest over the assassination. The funeral was held on 22 April 2008. National leader Hon. Prabhakaran bestowed the “Maamanithar”(Great human being ) posthumous honour upon Fr. Karunaratnam. 
Fr. Karunaratnam had become well-known as a human rights activist. He was one of the founders of an organisation known as the North-East Secretariat on Human Rights (NESOHR) and was its chairperson at the time of his death. The NESOHR focussed on the human rights violations perpetrated on Eelamtamils by Srilankan state,  para-military. The NESOHR also recorded the genocidal war on Eelamtamils. It was widely known that Kili Father was the livewire of the NESOHR.

Xavier Karunaratnam was an Tamil nationalist from his student days. He was involved with the Tamil United Liberation Front (TULF) youth wing “Ilaingar Peravai” and student wing “Maanavar Peravai”. In the 1977 general elections Karunaratnam was actively involved with the TULF addressing many election meetings in the Udupiddy electorate. His native place Karaveddy was in the Udupiddy electorate.

The 1977 elections was a watershed in Tamil politics as the TULF contested on a platform of secession and claimed that electoral success would be a mandate for Tamileelam. The TULF won 18 of 19 Tamil electorates in Tamileelam. The TULF victory in Udupiddy was historic. TULF supporters like Karunaratnam immersed themselves in the campaign. Karunaratnam was then teaching English at the Newton Tutorial College in Nelliaddy. He was a popular teacher.

Karunaratnam had a spiritual streak in him. He was always concerned about serving the people. It was in the mid-eighties that Xavier Karunaratnam began feeling that he was being “called” by God. He responded to the call and abandoned his banking career. He was ordained as a priest at the age of 38 in 1989. Kilivaathi now became known as Kilifather. Fr. Karunaratnam’s Tamil nationalism remained with him. The next step was that of supporting the Liberation movement of Eelamtamils. To those of this mindset and mood the LTT were the only ones continuing with the armed struggle to achieve Tamileelam. He also functioned as a correspondent of the Catholic Church Radio service “Veritas” based in Manila. 


After the ceasefire of 2002 Fr. Karunaratnam along with some others founded the North-East Secretariat on Human Rights called NESOHR.
Fr. Karunaratnam returned to Jaffna in 2002. The NESOHR compiled records about the genocide, human rights violations and atrocities against the Eelamtamils by the Srilakan state. Fr. Karunaratnam also met with many diplomats, human rights activists, NGO personnel and media representatives.

Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol

Sri Lanka’s Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol (LRRP) was known in Sinhala as the “Digu Dura Vihidum Balakaya” and in Tamil as the “Aazha Ooduruvi thaakkum Padaiyani”. It was also called the Deep Penetration Unit (DPU) and “Mahasonon” Brigade of the Army. The LRRP was basically a specialized military intelligence unit utilized for black ops. A black operation or black op is a covert or clandestine operation by a government agency, a military unit or a paramilitary organization. Key features of a black operation are that it is secret and is not attributable to the organization carrying it out. The usage of specialized military intelligence units to assassinate the enemy has been practised by different states and different armies in different situations.


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